: In this essay, I sketch five complementary arenas of concern are set forth as candidates for a cogent contemporary theory of paideia. First, a searching, goal setting form of reflection is central to paideia today even as it was in Hellenistic times. A second contributor to paideia is critical reflection. But, third, reasoning is also connected to embodied activity through feeling. Thus, sensitivity to existential meaning helps people determine what they really want and believe, and it also joins them to the persons, things, and events that matter most to them. Fourth, use of the moral point of view safeguards individuals against wallowing in mere self-indulgence heedless of the welfare of others or of the world as a whole. Finally, only by being open to the complex challenges of the world can a person be receptive to the mysterious dimension of life and discern ultimate priorities. I claim that persons guiding themselves by the five-leveled notion of paideia articulated here will again experience the power of philosophy to confer well-being upon themselves and the world.
The main theme of the Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy, "Paideia: Philosophy Educating Humanity," challenges philosophers to assess what impact philosophy is having and should be having in the world today. The use in the title of the classical term paideia suggests that conference organizers believe that philosophy should have both an beneficial and a broad impact. For implicit in the notion of paideia is the idea that philosophy is a boon bestowing enterprise; in enlightening persons, it improves their well-being. The breadth of impact is suggested by this definition of paideia from Webster's Third New International Dictionary: "The training of the physical and mental faculties in such a way as to produce a broad enlightened mature outlook harmoniously combined with maximum cultural development." I submit that this classical notion remains a worthy ideal expressive of the gifts philosophy can bring humanity. Paideia is cognate to notions of education found in Asian philosophy. Philosophy practiced in the spirit of paideia can indeed be a contributor to human well-being.
However, the world today is a vastly different place than the classical world in which the notion of paideia took root. A challenge facing any interpreter of paideia now is to locate considerations which have arisen in the course of philosophical history which deserve to be incorporated into a contemporary theory of paideia. A further challenge is to organize these philosophical perspectives and claims in such a way that a potential beneficiary of the educational effort is not simply overwhelmed by an array of unrelated claims. A parade of competing theories is likely to possess neither inner coherence nor outer winsomeness.
My suggestion is that philosophy can best lead humans to greater well-being when the various functions of reason are articulated and an organizing framework is constructed that maximizes reason's productive flourishing in interaction with the world. In making this suggestion, I am merely seizing upon rational activity as a necessary ingredient in philosophical insight. I will delineate rational activity and its orienting structures in five arenas of concern. The first two highlight several of reason's basic functions. The third arena helps clarify reason's relation to the body and to well-being. The last two arenas designate constraining conditions which work to ensure that reason in fact secures human well-being in harmony with the world.